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  • Boosting Productivity by Time Blocking

  • A few years ago, I was taking organic chemistry, which is notorious for being one of the most difficult classes for any science major. I honestly was not doing great in the class, and I thought maybe it was just going to be a subject I wasn't good at. Of course we all have our strengths and weaknesses, but I was just making excuses. I asked a few friends who were acing the exams what their secret was. Each of my friends gave me some great advice, but I noticed the underlying theme in what they told me was the same...

    Block out a specific amount of time to just study and work on the subject.

    Simply put, this is time blocking or block scheduling.

    What Is Block Scheduling?

    At my former high school, schedules are set in 1.5-hour chunks per class two to three days a week. Students know exactly what subjects they will have each day and prepare accordingly. This is the same idea to boost productivity. Schedule tasks into specific chunks of time each day and focus only on that project when the time comes. It seems simple, but it’s something many of us forget after high school because we compartmentalize that area of our lives into a different part of our brain.

    How Can I Apply It?

    I use time blocking almost every single day because the results are so satisfying. I divide a page or my calendar into blocks of times (from morning to the end of the work day) where I need to work on specific projects, study, or even clean my apartment. I look at my long-term lists, calendars, and exam dates to make a plan for the day. However, I leave extra room on the side to allow for some flexibility if something unexpected comes along. Check out a random day I pulled from earlier this month.

    Time blocking to boost productivity
    An example of time blocking during finals week, when productivity levels need to be at an all time high!

    In a single day, we can estimate 8-10 hours of a normal work day and maybe around 12 hours of a total "work day" for students. First, block out times you know you are busy, including going to the gym or having lunch. Then, schedule tasks based on importance using Parkinson’s law for time allotments. Do this consistently, and you will find that you are getting more things done while also having time to enjoy your evenings and still do things you love.

    But Isn’t This Concept Too Rigid?

    I get this question a lot and people ask why I plan in that much detail. From years of experience after implementing time blocking, I have found that it consistently boosts my productivity. With an unstructured schedule, I produce inconsistent and fewer results.

    I have also been asked if I feel less creative with a blocked schedule. In fact, I feel like I can do deeper work that requires me to be more creative. Because I don’t have to worry about what is coming next, I can “free my mind” for more creative pursuits.

    Time is your most valuable asset, so use it to produce high-yield results. Be honest with yourself how long each task is going to take. Initially, it is fine to overestimate the time a task takes, but once you get the hang of block scheduling, use Parkinson’s law to push your productive levels even further.

    Have you tried implementing time blocking? If so, how did it work out? Let me know by leaving a comment down below!